I'm not really someone you would classify as "green" or "crunchy". I eat gluten, and shop at walmart and don't even OWN a reusable shopping bag (although I know I SHOULD be using them). I don't buy all organic food and I buy most of my groceries at a typical grocery store. In my perfect world, I would buy free-range chicken and grass-fed beef, and my kids would only eat organic, locally grown produce. Lets face it though, this is not my perfect world (although it comes pretty darn close!).
I LOVE DIY though! If there is something I can do myself, I’m going to do it! Its a way to contribute in some small way to helping our world be a greener place, and also to making my home and family healthier, and stronger! And BONUS, DIY saves me money! And in our current situation, my choice to stay home with my children hinges on saving money! Do these things take time? Yes! YES they do- however I have more of that time available, because I stay home. Its kind of a cycle, but a good one! So without further adieu, here are the things I’ve stopped buying and how we have replaced them with cheaper, healthier alternatives!
In My Household
I’m sure you have seen many pins, and posts about homemade laundry detergent, and wondered…really? Can that really work? The short answer is YES! YES IT DOES! I have tried several different recipes, and come up with a few choices that really do clean my clothes for PENNIES, and are better for the environment, my washing machine, AND my clothes don’t wear out as fast. I also love that I know exactly what is going into my washer and therefore touching my children’s skin. You can read about my favorite recipe HERE.
Fabric Softener or Fabric softener Sheets
YUP! I really don’t use it at all. I take a sheet of tinfoil and roll it into a ball a little smaller than my fist and toss it in the laundry– keeps the static down and my clothes are soft. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and even my husband doesn’t complain. FYI- I tried vinegar in my rinse cycle for awhile, but noticed my darks lightening over time when I did this- so I eliminated this step.
Bathroom and Kitchen Cleaner/Sprays
I’ll never forget when a salesman came to my door with a “natural” cleaner and asked if I would be able to drink my household cleaner. I laughed and said “YES, I can! They almost dropped the stuff they were selling. I use baking soda and white vinegar to clean almost everything- occasionally I will put a few drops of dawn into the mix, or a bit of borax for a serious scrub. Occasionally, I use a disinfectant spray that I make myself, if need be. I love that its safer for my kids (of course I wouldn’t really let them drink the mixes I concoct, but its still safer than comet, 409, etc)
I have a clogged drain right now- its really quite irritating– and I have pumped TONS of money down it, trying several different brands. The only thing that worked at ALL to break down the clog was 1/2 cup baking soda+1 cup vinegar, then pouring a gallon of boiling water down the drain. I had to do it a couple of times, but with a bit of persistence it worked! AND I don’t have to worry about it killing my kids if they touch it.
I use coconut oil, or almond oil- and sometimes throw in some essential oils, when I feel the need for a pick me up or fragrance. (Peppermint oil is a GREAT morning pick-me-up and Lemon or Orange oil are great too) Its healthy, works great and doesn’t clog my skin, or stink like store bought lotion. For my face, I just use pure almond oil
Body Wash/Scrub/shaving cream/face wash
I just don’t love the idea of slathering my body with “stuff”, So I have a cup of plain old baking soda in my shower- and its fabulous. I wouldn’t believe me either, but try it- you’ll be sold! I still use traditional shampoo and conditioner- since I have MILES of hair on my head, and getting this mop clean and the tangles brushed out is a nightmare. So I typically wash and condition my hair as soon as I get in the shower, then I put it up on top of my head and clean the residue off with the baking soda- it exfoliates as well as leaves my skin feeling fresh! I used to have a problem with acne on my back (TMI I KNOW) and someone suggested maybe it was my conditioner on my back since my hair is so long. Now, since I have started using the baking soda to clean my body AFTER washing my hair and putting it up, my back is pretty much clear- BONUS! I also use it to shave… I know thats weird, I KNOW– but when its wet on your skin, it provides a smooth surface for shaving and instantly soothes any nicks or cuts you may have (I the Gillette Fusion Manual Razor which is a REALLY nice razor, even if it is made for men–so I’m not sure I would try this with a cheap .50 cent razor!)
I haven’t met a candle yet that didn’t give me a headache, apparently I’m particularly sensitive to whatever chemicals they use to make their fragrances. Plus they are expensive, especially when you consider its something you are just going to burn. Instead I use natural smells to create a nice atmosphere in my home. I save orange peels to simmer with cinnamon and cloves for a yummy smell that quickly permeates the house. Or I bake; bread, cookies, dinner, etc. This kills 2 birds with one stone since we get to enjoy the baked goods, and the house smells delicious!
Ana White has changed my feelings about furniture forever. So far I have built my own Kitchen table (2 actually, I sold one when we moved), Queen bed, bunk beds, and Loft beds for my girls. You do have to invest a bit to get the tools necessary, and its scary at first to use big power tools, but empowering once you get going. When I built my first table I sold the one I had for 600 dollars and then used the money to buy the supplies and tools to build my first table and benches. When we moved I sold that one, and used the money to build another one, basically for free this time! Don’t believe you can do it? Visit Ana Whites Website and you’ll be begging your husband for a Table Saw and Sander by the end of the day!
In My Kitchen
Bread/ Dinner Rolls
There are very few things more delicious than a hearty slice of fresh baked, whole wheat bread. Its especially rewarding when you make it yourself! Its not always CHEAPER to make your own bread, but it IS, arguably, healthier. When you make bread yourself, you know exactly what went into it, and these days that is invaluable. Honestly, have you looked at the ingredient list on a loaf of bread recently? They are usually full of all sorts of “stuff” you can’t pronounce, and contain trans fats and highly processed ingredients like High Fructose Corn Syrup. I don’t want my kids eating all that stuff if I can avoid it, so most of the time I make my own bread. You can find my favorite recipe here. I also love to make dinner rolls a few times a week, and use those for things like egg salad/chicken salad sandwiches, etc. I’ll post my favorite recipe soon!
If you want to be concerned about what you are feeding your children, start at the very beginning- of the day! Boxed cereals, even the “healthy” ones, are usually full of all sorts of unpronounceable ingredients! And lots and lots and LOTS of sugar. They almost always have dyes and colorings that children can be sensitive to. I didn’t believe that dyes could really cause a reaction, until I had kids myself. If you doubt the veracity of its ability to cause hyperactivity in *some* children, you are welcome to feed my kids some yellow candy and then spend an hour with them. I assure you, you will be a believer after 15 minutes. So I make my own granola, and when we don’t have a hot breakfast, its very handy to have around. Its also awesome mixed in with yogurt, or ice cream. And its appallingly easy to make. Try out my recipe here.
Store Bought Yogurt
Store bought yogurt is full of sugar. I mean, really I am sure you are eating more sugar than yogurt when you consume a little cup of yogurt. So I started researching ways to make it. Honestly, the first time I tried making my own yogurt I told mean jokes about it, because it was such a pain in the rear, and involved things like checking the temperature every few minutes and wrapping my crock pot in a blanket…uhm NO! Then I read this awesome post and said- I can totally do this! You can read my tips for yogurt making here, after 2 years of making it myself, I do things a bit differently now than she does, and I am very satisfied with the result.
It takes about the same amount of time to throw the ingredients for pizza dough together as it does to go out for take-out. AND you don’t have to leave the comfort of your PJ’s. I have a SUPER EASY recipe that is literally fail proof. Don’t believe me? My 10 year old son is usually the one who makes the pizza for our weekly Pizza night. Plus, I know exactly whats going into it. You can find that recipe here.
Fruit Roll Ups/Fruit Snacks
Don’t get me started on all the crap that is in most store bought fruit snacks/fruit roll-ups. They are mostly sugar, and they are sticky…so they cause cavities when they stick to your children’s teeth and hang around for hours. And think about what they are replacing in your childs lunchbox? FRUIT! How much easier is it just to put some fruit in there? Plus, price for ounce- fruit is much cheaper and obviously healthier for you. The manufacturers of fruit snacks will try to convince you that they replace a serving of fruit in your diet, and its tempting because its “easy” and quick, but in my house we’ve decided processed and sugary can never replace fresh. Some other awesome ideas are to dehydrate fruits (pineapple and strawberries are delicious dehydrated) or make fruit leather. This isn’t going to necessarily be better for TEETH, but at least all the sugar is natural fruit sugar, and you don’t have to worry about preservatives.
Don’t get me started on all the “stuff” in hot pockets, but lets face it- we all need a little convenience every now and again! All you need is an easy biscuit dough recipe (self rising flour, cut in butter till its kind of a cornmeal texture, add buttermilk to make a dough- voila!) And then just roll them out into circles, stuff with your favorite ingredients- fold over and bake for a few minutes on 450 (like 8-10) Try this guys, its so good and your kids will love them. I’ll post a real recipe soon.
Have you ever seen that Jamie Oliver video that shows how chicken Nuggets are made? Disgusting is an understatement! Besides being over processed and full of questionable ingredients, they are expensive!!! I buy chicken breast when its on sale and cut it into strips, dip it into flour and cook it with a little oil in a pan. You can also lie it out on a cookie sheet and bake it at 350 for about 20-30 minutes as long as you cut it into thin strips. All I add is salt! Then whatever we don’t eat I flash freeze on a cookie sheet in my freezer for about 15 minutes and then wipe it off into a ziplock back and freeze. Its so easy after that to just pull 2-3 out and nuke them for 30 seconds to a minute and feed them to the kiddos for lunch or a quick dinner.
My husband is particularly sensitive to MSG, so we have cut it out of our diet as much as possible. We make our own ranch dressing mix, and mix up what we need when we need it. This cost a bit to do initially, but the quart jar of mix that I made lasted more than a year, so it was worth the investment, in my opinion. I like this recipe the best. No MSG, No preservatives- and the best part, you can mix up as much or as little as you like!
I will probably add to this list in the future, and any tips or things you make yourself instead of buying are welcome in the comments below, who knows, I may add them to my list!